Making Democracy Work

Improve access to the ballot, particularly for those previously convicted of a felony, modernize elections to allow for better representation and more flexibility, facilitate better understanding of initiatives.

Issue Team Chair: Kathy Sakahara, 261-7797
 DOWNLOAD the Elections Issue Paper

Interested in getting involved with this topic? Click here! 

News This Week

While we've had a number of our priority bills pass their House of origin, there are still a few that need to move in the next few days.

SB 5015Protecting ballots from fake ballot boxes, passed the Senate unanimously. We hear that legislators are receiving an overwhelming number of emails from a well organized campaign to keep problematic advisory votes on the ballot.  We need all of you to let your legislators know it is time for them to go.

 2021 Democracy Lobby Week Wraps Up

If you missed any of the programs you can see recordings of all the public events on the Democracy Lobby Week page

Bills Needing Action This Week

Eliminating Advisory Votes SB 5182 Advisory votes are questions that appear on the ballot regarding state expenditures that have already been passed by the legislature. Although their wording (Repealed | Maintained) suggests that they are binding referenda, the results do not have any impact. They add significantly to the costs of elections and voters are not informed about them because reliable information is virtually impossible to find. Having votes that do not count for anything is inconsistent with League principles. We need this bill to be voted on in the Senate in the next two days. That will in part be dependent on senators knowing there will be support for this bill in the House.

ACTION ALERT: Please email your legislators today expressing your support for this bill. 

Voting Rights Restoration HB 1078 This bill will strengthen our democracy, increase public safety, and promote racial justice by automatically restoring the right to vote for every citizen living in the community. HB 1078 has passed the House 57-41!!! The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate State Government and Elections Committee on March 10. Please sign in in support of that bill now. 

Ranked Choice Voting 
HB 1156 would allow local jurisdictions the option to use Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) for local elections. LWVWA positions clearly support alternative election systems, including RCV, which offers voters more choice, eliminates the spoiler effect, encourages more positive, issued-focus campaigns, and may lower election and campaign costs when jurisdictions choose to eliminate primaries.  

The bill originally included an option of eliminating all odd-year elections, but the sponsor has agreed to remove that portion. This bill also includes a provision legal cost reimbursement for lawsuits filed under the Washington Voting Rights Act if the jurisdiction settles. The current law provides reimbursement only if the challenge is settled in court, which serves as a discouragement for an out-of-court settlement. 

This bill was pulled from the Rules Committee and is now on second reading, so it could be voted on at any time.

ACTION ALERT: Please contact your representatives and urge them to vote for this bill. 

Closing the Revolving Door
SB 5170: Employment after public service, establishes a one-year “cooling off” period before elected officials and high-level employees can work as a lobbyist influencing state public policy. Thirty-seven states, as well as the federal government, have cooling off period/revolving door laws. The disclosure required by this bill of post-employment income sources will strengthen transparency and confidence in the integrity of government. This bill is now on second reading in the Senate, so it could be voted on at any time.
ACTION ALERT: Contact your Senator to ask them to vote yes on SB 5170.

Other Bills the League Supports, Click on the Bill # to see additional information

Harassment of election officials

SB 5148 This bill makes harassment of an election worker a class C felony. 

Across our country, there has been an unconscionable rise of threats towards election workers—from elected positions to our front line workers, counting and tabulating ballots, all selflessly doing their civic duty to uphold our democracy. Among many others, there are examples in our state as well as GeorgiaThis bill would clearly outline in our law that those who wish to violate our democratic process by harassing or threatening not only election officials, but also the front line temporary staff and permanent staff who are counting, tabulating, and processing our ballots, will be subject to a class B felony (amended to class C felony). 

This bill passed the Senate on a very strong bipartisan vote, 46-2! It now moves to the Public Safety Committee in the House.

Protecting Elected Officials, government employees and the right to assemble 

SB 5038 prohibits openly carried weapons on the state capitol grounds and at rallies and gatherings on public property. The bill not only protects public safety but also enables free unintimidated speech. Violence and threats of violence have erupted in our nation's capitol and in state capital cities, including Washington's. SB 5038 passed the Senate 28-20 and now moves to the Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee in the House.

Protecting ballots SB 5015 This bill would make the placement of non-governmental receptacles that appear to be official drop boxes a gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of up to $5000.
This bill passed the Senate unanimously.

Citizens’ Initiative Review 

SB 5250Our Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) bill has been introduced! CIRs provide invaluable, objective voter information on initiatives. Citizens’ Initiative Reviews have been shown to deliver accurate, clear, and trustworthy information to voters in the form of objective and factual evaluations of ballot initiatives—both positive and negative impacts. We are disappointed that this bill did not move this session, but we are anticipating a work session on this and an ongoing public information campaign over the interim.

Bills We OpposeThese Bills Did Not Survive Cutoff

Establishing term limits

SJR 8203  This bill would put a limit of eight years for anyone to serve in the legislature. LWVWA has always opposed term limits because they take away a voter’s opportunity to vote for the candidate they prefer.  

Requiring watermarks on mail-in ballots
HB 1003
 This bill would limit ballots to only those mailed to voters. Currently voters who have lost their ballot can print one along with the envelope, sign it and know it will be counted. This bill would disenfranchise voters and add cost and burden to election offices.

Election of the governor by county
HB 1014
. This bill would establish a county-based electoral college for election of the governor. There is no clear reason why the election of the governor should be different from any other elected office. The League's position is that the direct-popular-vote method for electing our officials is essential to representative government.

Term limit for the governor
SJR 8202
This would amend the Constitution to create a term limit for governor of four years.

Elimination of vote by mail and other voter access tools

SB 5143: This bill would eliminate vote by mail and return us to polling place voting, adding a picture ID requirement. It would also eliminate same day voting and require that any absentee ballots that are requested must be returned by Election Day.  

How You Can Be Involved

In addition to contacting your legislator, you can join the Democracy Team to apply your knowledge and skills and build on them. For the new Citizen Initiative Review legislation, we will need help with research, social media and building public knowledge and support.

If you would like to get involved, email Kathy Sakahara.

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